My self publishing experience part two-gaining confidence and editing
I had a book in mind, a half a manuscript sitting on my desk at home, and a desire to see what other people were doing. I am usually not a timid person but one winter night in 2007 I walked timidly into a meeting room at the Rome Library. I was in some new and unfamiliar territory.
To read part one of this series, CLICK HERE
I can still remember the first time I walked into the Rome Area Writers meeting. I was warmly welcomed and I sat in the back of the room to see what happened. Dick Ingram was president of the group at the time and I found later that the term president in that group was synonymous with the word moderator. Dick went through a business discussion and then opened the meeting up for readings. I was able to listen to others read their writings and to hear the comments and criticisms-both negative and positive. I joined the writer’s group that night and it proved to be a good move.
A month later, I pumped myself up and took something to read to the meeting. I remember standing in front of the group and saying, “I’ve never done anything like this before and I hope I don’t embarrass myself.” My fears turned out to be unwarranted and, as my brother Billy would say, “They ‘plauded.” The criticism wasn’t so bad and I found a lot of the comments helpful. I felt like maybe I was on to something. There was this good looking lady there, too, with a funny name that I didn’t quite get.
I decided that I liked the readings and attended a few poetry readings here and there, most notably at a very nice shop named Cobblestones, and run by Mark Watters and his lovely wife. I will always appreciate the opportunity that I was given by this nice venue to listen to others and to present my own offerings. My poetry was probably all right, nothing special, but I found that the audience also enjoyed a bit of southern prose. That’s what I’m good at. I saw the good looking lady with the funny name again at one of the poetry readings. I still didn’t get her name, though.
I kept working on the book. I knew it was getting good and I would read a chapter or two in front of people at the writer’s group or at a group reading, judging the worth of my work by watching facial reactions as I read and by listening for laughter in the right places. Sometimes I got reactions where I didn’t expect them and no reactions where I wanted them. Reading the work out loud was quite a help, too, in that I could get a feel for the sound of the stories. At one point I made an important discovery as I found myself censoring the work, taking out the “f-word” because I didn’t want to cross the line of other’s sensitivities. I ended up going back to take out anything that I didn’t think would be appropriate to read before a mixed group.
I read a lot and I have noticed since the social changes of the sixties that the use of profanity has lost its shock value and become common in popular literature. I was writing about rednecks and figured that profanity was necessary in the dialogue. My mother and I talked about it:
She said, “you need to take that word out.”
“But,” I replied, “I can’t write about rednecks without using “the word.”
“If you want my friends to read it, you need to take the word out.” She said.
I thought about it and realized that she was right. If writing with profanity had become commonplace then I would do the uncommon thing and take out all of the profanity. I didn’t just take out “the word,” either, I took out all of the profanity except for one place where it just had to be there to make the situation work. The one exception was that I studied on it, pondered on it, philosophized about it, and decided that the word Sumbitch was all right to use sparingly.
I was hooked on the Rome Area Writers meetings like an alcoholic would be dependent on AA. At the third or fourth meeting I asked if anyone knew a competent professional editor who could help me. I was introduced to the lady with the funny name. Her name was Dekie which I later learned was a contraction of her middle name, Dekalb. The story goes on, but it’s another story, and anyway, I ended up hiring Dekie to edit my work.
At our first meeting I gave Dekie a printed piece of my manuscript and a check.
At our second meeting a week later, Dekie laid my manuscript on the table before us and I saw a million red and yellow marks all over the pages. It may have been two million marks, but you get the message. I stood and looked and felt like I had been beaten with a sledge hammer. I mean, I thought I had given her some good stuff to look at. We sat down to go over it.
“First,” she said, “You have to totally re format the writing. What you have given me is formatted for the internet with no indentation and double spaces between paragraphs. It needs to be done in a book format.”
“But that’s the way I like it.” I said
She gave me a look that I will never forget and firmly stated, “You ain’t Faulkner.”
It took me a long while to understand what she had said. I now know what she meant and I always keep it firmly in mind. I started paying attention to my editor and making the changes she suggested. I found that there are two kinds of editing, substantive editing which deals with the story and with the words that make it up, and copy editing which takes care of all the other problems.
I have realized that good and competent editing is the most important part of producing a book I cannot emphasize this enough. Dekie made a list that makes the editing tasks clear:
Copyediting, such as:
- Word choice
- Basic grammar
Substantive editing, such as:
- Add/delete sections, chapters, etc.
- Tone/point of view
- Flag words/phrases for unintended meanings
- Organization & presentation of material
- Collect, prepare, and arrange materials for publication (as in anthologies, etc.)
I will leave you with this for now while I prepare for next week’s continuation which deals with what happens after the manuscript has been completed and edited. I hope you are enjoying the story.
To read part one of this series, CLICK HERE
As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?